According to Goffman, sex is the bases of a fundamental code that makes up social interactions and social structures. Sex is “learned, diffuse, role behavior” (Goffman, 210). It’s not the social consequences of sex differences that need to be explained, but as Goffman says, “the way in which these differences were put forth to warrant for our social arrangements…the way in which institutional workings of society ensured this accounting would seem sound” (Goffman, 211). The frame of social arrangement is sex-class placement, which equals gender- a social construct which yields differential socialization. Having a conception of masculinity and femininity is what characterizes a society as civilized. The basic unit of American society is the domestic establishment (Goffman, 213) and women are subordinate to men, but stand more advantaged than other adult groups, because they are idealized and defined as “fragile and valuable”. The arrangement between the sexes is sustained because of belief. This is shown in the courtship complex and courtesy system. In the courtship complex male is attracted and the female attracts. The courtesy system (in the realm of public life) involves obligatory help, which also renders opportunity for advance. Goffman explains the outcomes of these arrangements include difference in access to and selection of a mate, social composure and vulnerability to assault, demonstrating differentiated arrangement between the sexes and in relation to public life. (D Swint)
Erving Goffman is a wordsmith of the first order. He produced sentences that are artful and precise, but sometimes syntactically challenging. And so, advice #1: don't grow prematurely impatient with the language. Goffman is also a deliberately provocative and highly ironic writer, and so, advice #2: defer knee-jerk reactions to what can sound to the modern ear like off-putting remarks.
Although claimed as a sociologist, this essay reveals Goffman the deep anthropologist. Goffman wants to understand how a few factual differences can be parlayed into an extensive network of situational inequalities.
Why is the article here, at the start of the section of the course on groups? Hechter and Horne say it "shows how powerful these social constraints can be" (200.3). Goffman's first paragraph notes that (1) sex remains fundamental category in social world, (2) for a long time it was just taken as a given in social science, (3) the topic is a fundamental one that need not be limited to a critique of social practices. I think the point is that the existence of sex/gender membership categories completely distorts the model of atomistic, identical individuals that was a part of the premise when talking about markets and hierarchies.
In one sentence: Sex fundamental to social organization but for long time taken-for-granted.